BY ROB SHAW
To put it mildly, Aramis Ramirez has not had Brewers fans forget about Prince Fielder. While Fielder has already offered the Tigers a .345 average with two home runs, Ramirez has chipped in with just a .129 average and no home runs for the Brew Crew. This is a far cry from the .306 average Ramirez offered last season, not to mention the expectations coming into this season with Milwaukee.
While Ramirez is off to a slow start, he has had a tad of bad luck. Alfonso Soriano robbed him at the left-field wall of an extra base hit on Tuesday, and he already has swiped two bases while nailing two doubles. Plus, Ramirez is a notorious slow starter as March and April are his worst batting months throughout his career.
At this point, fantasy managers should be in a holding pattern, as Ramirez is likely to bounce back. For the first time this season, Ramirez did not strike out in two consecutive games. It looks like he is starting to see the ball better, and that usually leads to a rise in batting average and the power metrics. Patience is a virtue in dealing with A-Ram’s early slump.
There has been a very scary trend in Cleveland for fantasy managers in recent years. We’ve seen players who reach superstardom with the Indians only to lose their luster seemingly overnight due to injuries.
First it was MVP contender Travis Hafner, who went from a .300-plus hitting machine with loads of power to a lackluster DH who struggles to stay healthy. More recently, it’s been all-around sensation Grady Sizemore, who has lost his speed and power in recent years and now is once again on the disabled list for an extended period.
The question that is plaguing fantasy managers right now is whether Shin-Soo Choo will follow that undesirable path. Following consecutive 20-20 seasons, Choo had a season to forget last year with off-the-field controversy followed by an injury-plagued season. Fresh off his worst season with 8 home runs and a .259 average, Choo is struggling once again. The two-time 20-20 fantasy star has five hits, all of them singles.
The good news is that Shoo is drawing walks and already has two stolen bases while his OBP is north of .400. For now fantasy managers should be in a holding power with Choo. The solid plate discipline suggests that he is seeing the ball well and could bust out of his power outage at any moment. In fact, if you have confidence in the 29-year-old outfielder go ahead and acquire him while his stock is low.
What’s the deal with Mets first baseman Ike Davis? Last season he got off to a excellent start before a bum ankle shut him down for the season with seven home runs, 25 RBI, and a .302 average through 36 games. This season has been the total opposite. Davis has two hits through 28 at bats, and both hits have been singles.
While the Mets are calling Davis healthy, there are some questions as to whether a fungal disease suffered during spring training is still limiting him physically, or if at this point, the toll is mental, as Davis has 10 strikeouts through the first eight games of the season.
To be specific, the ailment that Davis encountered this spring was Valley Fever, a lung disease that could lead to fatigue. It very much should be taken seriously, as the illness once knocked 130 games out of the season from Conor Jackson. So yes, fantasy managers should be on red alert, as the disease commonly found in desert environments such as Davis’ hometown in Phoenix could be an issue.
Some good news is that David Wright returned from his broken pinkie on Saturday and blasted a home run. With Wright’s return to the Mets lineup, there are more likely to be runners on base for Davis to drive home. Furthermore, Lucas Duda has looked very much like a slugger this season with three home runs already. With Duda batting behind Davis, there could be an uptick in the runs scored as well.
Of course, the main focus for Davis right not is to snap out of the slump, then he will no longer hear the whispers of mystery ailments and more concerns about the health of Mets players.
When last season concluded with Tim Lincecum brandishing a losing record, there was not much panic in San Francisco as his 13-14 record came with a superb 2.74 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. On that note, fantasy managers again picked Lincecum early in the drafts this season expecting him to contend with rival Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award. Through two starts the Giants ace may have already pitched himself out of contention.
Tim Lincecum currently sits at 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA. Fantasy managers are wondering if it will it be sink or swim by the Bay this season for Lincecum. This is a major concern for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list is that Lincecum is usually strong out of the gates. April is usually the best month for him, at 12-3 entering this season with a sub-3 ERA.
Another key concern has been the diminishing velocity. Lincecum is so far throwing his fastball at 90 MPH this season, down from 91 MPH last year and 92 MPH the year before. He relies a great deal on his high velocity since his outpitch is no longer his slider, but his change-up. In fact, Lincecum has mentioned that he will try to avoid use of his slider this season since it puts pressure on his arm. It will be tough to get away with just a fastball and change-up if he can’t reach the mid-90s.
Keep an eye on Lincecum’s next start as this may be a concerning trend. For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
Rob Shaw and Michelle Steele report on the waiver wire, including Yankee killer Chris Heisey, joined for the first time ever by a live studio audience!
Brandon Beachy, SP, Braves
Beachy has just two wins on the season, but with a 3.22 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, fantasy managers are picking up a reliable hurler. Best of all, Beachy, who was undrafted of Indiana Wesleyan, is a strikeout artist. In fact, fresh from more than a month on the disabled list, Beachy fanned 11 batters in just 6 innings on Thursday night. He has 57 K’s on the season in just 50.1 innings of work.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Cubs
He is an all or nothing type slugger, but the good news is that lately he has been more all than nothing. He has gone three straight games with a homer, and make that 5 dingers over the last seven games. Sure, only once did he get an additional hit in those games, but the RBI are piling up as well as the runs scored. This is a guy who can swat 40 in a season, so feel free to pick up the hot bat.
Travis Hafner, 1B, Indians
One of the biggest surprises this season has been the play of the Indians, and if you’re wondering where they’re getting their offense from, well the answer is an oldie, but goodie. Travis Hafner has turned back the clock to hit .338 this season. This is a former .300-plus hitter, so the fact that he is raking is not unprecedented. He is 34-years old, so invest accordingly.
Chris Heisey, OF, Reds
Yankees fans are wondering who the heck is Chris Heisey. Turns out this newfound Yankee killer, Red Sox fans will love this, went to a college called Messiah! Not sure if he is the chosen one, but in a small sampling, Heisey now has 16 home runs in just 329 at bats. This year his slugging is .492, to put that in perspective, his teammate Joey Votto is not that far above him at .519. In 2009, at the high levels of Minor League ball, Heisey blasted 22 home runs with 21 steals and a .314 average. Looks like fantasy managers should put this outfielder on their radar, although playing time could be an issue unless Jonny Gomes finds the bench with his .222 average.
Jonathan Broxton, RP, Dodgers
If you cut Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton following his most recent blowup in early May before landing on the DL, it may be a good idea to pick him right up. We have no idea if his struggles are in the past, but we do know that his manager intends on returning him to the closer’s role once he is healthy. Broxton is on the road to recovery, most recently pitching at Triple-A in a rehab appearance.
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